Panel to look into timeshare complaints

Panel to look into timeshare complaints
Panel to look into timeshare complaints

The National Consumer Commission (NCC) has appointed a three-member inquiry panel to look into the root causes of consumer complaints in the timeshare industry.

“I have authorised the appointment of a three-member inquiry panel, who will lead the processes of the inquiry,” said NCC Commissioner Ebrahim Mohamed.

The Commissioner has appointed Diane Terblanche, who is an attorney with extensive experience in consumer protection law at all levels.

The other two members are Aubrey Ngcobo, who is an admitted attorney, specialising in property law for over 22 years, as well as Zandile Mpungose, who is an experienced attorney with extensive experience in contract management, policy development and strategy.

Speaking at a media briefing to launch a public inquiry into the timeshare industry, Commissioner Mohamed said the purpose of the inquiry is to identify the root causes of the issues experienced by consumers, make findings on the facts and evidence presented to the panel of inquiry, and make recommendations on how to address the consumer issues highlighted in the complaints.

Mohamed said the NCC has always held the view that complaints from timeshare consumers are valid and warranted.

“Consumers allege, amongst others, that they have been misled into signing up for lifetime contracts that can never be cancelled. They further allege that companies overbook and oversell accommodation, and that timeshare companies threaten them with litigation if they cannot afford to pay levies for properties, which they never get to stay in because the properties are always fully booked,” said the Commissioner on Thursday.

The panel will, together with the NCC’s technical task team, conduct the inquiry over a six-month period and will cover the length and breadth of the country engaging consumers, role players in the vacation ownership industry, regulators, academics, courts, tribunals and all other interested parties.

“In doing that, they will gather evidence, statements, solicit information through questionnaires or surveys, produce documents, attend hearings and participate in inspection in loco and other activities that are appropriate and necessary,” Mohamed said.

The process of gathering information will be done in order to establish the nature, characteristics and types of vacation, as well as to establish the basis upon which industry products and services are promoted and made available to South African consumers.

Upon the finalisation of the inquiry process, the panel will compile a written report.

“A roadmap has been prepared with the panel in the form of a project plan. The processes include visits to provinces to consult different role players. This will include consumers who have filed complaints, interest groups, as well as academics.

“Once completed, the panel will submit a comprehensive report to me, which I will assess and together with my team, make a determination on how to take the process forward. This could include a variety of recommendations to the Minister of Trade and Industry for certain legislative reforms,” Mohamed said.

The NCC, which is the chief regulator of consumer-business interaction in South Africa, is an agency of the Department of Trade and Industry (dti).

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